Please Don’t Hurt My Children

Scott and I have a hard time leaving our children alone with anyone.

We hate it — both leaving them and how difficult it is for us.

It’s not that we believe we are the greatest parents on Earth. It’s that we know our own shortcomings. And we know other people’s problems are not often visible.

Abusers are the great pretenders. Manipulators. They don’t come with neon signs. They aren’t poor or rich, black or white. They are our neighbors. Our friends.

Scott and I have seen so many children come in broken by parents and caretakers. We’ve seen friends taken out of their homes. We know what it looks like off the television.

As parents and people, we are all posturing. Putting forth the best that we think you want us to be. In person, in our jobs, on the Internet, everywhere. We pick the best pictures for Facebook and the sweetest stories to tell.

Even when we bend ourselves into the truth, the truth isn’t ever: I beat my child. Because those truths aren’t allowed out. They are silent, justified, ignored. They are News at Eleven.

Because of our histories, there are things that we can’t do. We can’t use in-home daycare. It’s not that they are all bad. Most aren’t. But I will never forget the little girl brought in with the acid burns in the shape of her diaper. The police had no proof, and the little girl went home. Her mom was an in-home daycare provider, and those parents kept dropping their children at that woman’s home. And we watched and waited for the next child to show up in our ER. So I can’t do it. I can’t let it go.

And what of all the children still silent in their own personal hells. Teachers, doctors, friends miss the signs all the time. The strange bruises. The hollowed eyes. The belief that it couldn’t be our neighbor, our church member, our friend.

But Scott and I force ourselves to leave the house without our children because our marriage needs it. We have to spend time together without the responsibilities of parenthood.

But it weighs upon us. Every morning of date night, we fight. Not because we hate dating or each other. But because we hate leaving our children. And we don’t know where to put those fears.

Anyone, who has watched my children, knows that I’d rather my children have fun than be reprimanded. I don’t mind having to reteach them the rules. I do mind having another person putting my son in his room. Or yelling at my daughter. And I always check in with my children afterward. I ask questions of our sitters if I have the slightest concern.

That probably makes us the worse parents to work for.

Camps terrify me, too. Random college students taking care of my children makes me want to cry.

My childrens’ school is the one place where I’ve found a level of comfort that doesn’t lead to fighting with Scott. Maybe it’s because I have good memories of school. But even there I’m watchful. Cautious.

I have to constantly remind myself of the line between paranoid and well-informed. And that I walk the wrong side too often.

Sometimes, I wish that we were more ignorant.

But I am too afraid to let go. I’m too afraid that someone will hurt my children.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

47 thoughts to “Please Don’t Hurt My Children”

  1. It’s hard for us to leave our daughter too. We are happiest if one or both of us is with her. On days when we both work and we have to arrange alternative childcare, we almost always argue. We’re always trying to find the balance between being appropriately cautious and overprotective. Even if we feel secure that our sitter isn’t a predator, we know how trying it can be to manage a preschooler and we don’t want our daughter to be on the business end of someone whose patience is at its end. And I’m with you – I don’t want my kid disciplined by a sitter or spoken harshly to AT ALL (by someone other than me. lol)

  2. As long as your kids aren’t privy to the fighting on the morning of date night, you’re golden. We can’t control all aspects of life. This is a nightmare but probably a blessing. I hope.

  3. on the one hand, I’m sure good advice would be to tell you to relax a little. on the other, my mother was one of those secretive abusers (not of other kids, my cousins, or friends. just me.). but in talking to the parents of my friends today, they all sensed something was off with my mom and they just left their kids when they knew my dad would be there (my dad is awesome). I’m not saying leave your babes with someone you think is off, but I’m saying your instincts are probably better than you think. just go with your guy and your kiddos will be fine.

    also? you’re a great mom. thought maybe you needed a little reminder.

  4. When I was 13 I used to babysit for two toddlers regularly. The little girl got upset with me when I wouldn’t let her throw blocks at my head. Her mom called later asking if I had spanked her, which I hadn’t. But I was so ashamed that shed say that, that her mother would always doubt me a little now. As a mom, I know I’d always be suspicious.

    So, our babysitters are my family is what I’m saying. I can’t take more than that.

  5. We’re lucky enough to have had the same babysitter since my oldest was born 7 1/2 years ago who happens to be a middle school teacher that I met playing soccer with and we trust her COMPLETELY. That being said, it has gotten easier for me to leave my kids as they’ve gotten older and they are better able to articulate if anything is off with a person or situation (and they have a very clear understanding of what is appropriate and what is not). If you haven’t read the book “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin DeBecker, I highly recommend it. His first book “The Gift of Fear” is about protecting ourselves as adults and he speaks to the gut feeling mentioned elsewhere in these comments. He further delves into this as it relates to protecting our children – whom he points out, as you do, are more likely to be victimized by someone they know than a stranger – and his suggestions have literally changed some of the ways that we try to keep our children safe (for example, our kids know that if they are ever lost that they should approach a woman – aka mommy to my little ones – to ask for help). He believes that simply telling kids not to talk to strangers is foolhardy, unrealistic, and teaches a child to be fearful when it isn’t necessary. I don’t know that the book will help relieve the tension you feel getting ready to go out, but it might and at the very least it may give you some new things to consider as it relates to keeping your kids safe. This is in my list of top 5 books I think every parent should read.

  6. What a great post! I keep trying to think of something deep to write. I can’t. You set the bar high. Instead, I will just say, I worry about parents that DON’T worry about this. I do not leave my kids with people I hesitate or really question. Even if I know them. I am a true believer in gut instinct, especially mommy intuition. That being said, I also have to choose to not live in fear. Fear can paralyze a mom’s individuality and marriage thus wreaking havoc in other ways. So, instead we find sitters we trust. Most have background checks, and listen to that little voice inside if alarms start going off. My MIL works in social services and has given us a lot of good advice that is not being fearful but smart parenting.
    As a teacher, it infuriated me to see signs of abuse. I had to come in between a father and son in my classroom. I tried to come up with enough proof for two female students to get fathers tossed out of homes or their home life looked into. One girl specifically I was worried about due to what you described: withdrawn, hollowed shell of a preteen that should be laughing and giggling instead. My MIL even made a comment about her not having spoken to me when she was visiting my classroom once. Both cases DSS didn’t have enough proof. When I taught (I was in one of Charleston’s lowest poverty and highest crime level) I told myself not to worry about test scores. That when those students came into my room they would eat, be safe, and feel loved for 8 hours of their day. No matter what. When interviewing for a different job the principal asked me to describe my classroom and kids and I started crying. I called my current principal on the way home telling her I would not be leaving. I guess what chaps my hide the most about abuse is that kids can’t fight back. They don’t know things are “wrong” or “not appropriate” so their trust is taken advantage of. And from that point on their future is changed. Robbed. Anyway, thanks for this post. Daily I pray for kids in abusive situations. Maybe it’s human trafficking, abusive home, teacher. I pray God will show them a way out, that the abuser will stop, that someone will listen and act on their behalf. Then I pray for the abuser.That he/she will stop, find help, or be found out, or release the ones they are abusing. Thanks so much for this post. Perhaps it’s what a mom/dad might need to realize the childcare they have is not safe, or the little voice they hear should be listened to.

  7. Wow. Honestly, I am so glad I no longer nanny and babysit because this post terrifies me.

    Now that I am a parent, I can say that my parenting method includes discipline. It just does. I do not allow my child to do things that are harmful or mean and she goes in time out when she does things that break the rules. Sometimes I use harsh tone of voice, which I am not proud of, but I do not insult her and I do not hit her.

    That said, when I nannied 2 little girls, when I babysat at least once a week in college to help pay rent, I didn’t coddle the kids. I didn’t allow them to do whatever they wanted. Because kids try to get away with things. There were thousands of times where a kid would tell me, “Mom lets me do that” and later on I would find out that Mom absolutely DID NOT let her do that.

    So I made rules. I insisted that the kids know that MY rules went when I was in the house, not their parents’, because it was the only way not to get manipulated into letting them do things like eat candy or jump on the couch. I always tried to be open with the parents, find out whether they used time out or some other method, but when it came down to it, I was in charge. I never hit them. I never yelled at them. I put them in time out a couple times, I sent a kid to bed without the TV they told me they could watch because they were talking back and hitting me, but I never was abusive.

    I feel it is unfair to think you can leave your child with someone and have them not discipline at all. I don’t know how you are supposed to keep kids from acting out and doing dangerous or disrespectful or mean things without SOME form of discipline. Even if it is just sternly repeating the rules. What do you think teachers at school do? Let the kids run circles in the room because parents would be mad if their kid got put in the corner or sent to the principals office or had to write lines?

    I feel for the poor babysitters, the in-home daycares, the caretakers of our children, if they are constantly being criticized and scrutinized. If I was still in that workforce this whole thread would terrify me so much I might even quit. I don’t think I could take the stress of being hit and manipulated and screamed at by children and sit back and DO NOTHING because I would be afraid a child would tell their parents how awful I was.

    I think its good to be cautious. I think its good to be aware. I think its good you know that there is not just one type of person who abuses. But I think that by living in fear you are doing yourself and your children and your babysitters a cruel disservice.

  8. Right there with you. I’m okay with grandparents watching them (which isn’t geographically viable), or sometimes mom friends (but that’s complicated, since they often have to care for their own kids). But even having my own child-free friends watch them is hard for me. I have a lot of trouble letting go, and while I wish I had a regular sitter I just don’t know how to find one that is right for our family.

    I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to make that call, some people have to trust others to care for their children. Others have the choice and just feel more comfortable making the decision to hire babysitters/child-care than I do.

    I think I will be more okay with it the older my kids are. For example: I trust my four-year-old to let me know if anything untoward happens. Right now she’s in the age of over-sharing anyway, and as she gets older she’ll learn more about what’s appropriate and what’s not. But my 10-month-old? Putting aside the separation issues she (and I) would face, I still would worry about her.

    I enjoyed going to camp when I was a pre-teen, even though I look back at it now and realize what jerks some of the counselors were. But wow, I thought they were so old and cool, and then I graduated college and looked around at all the whippersnappers still in school and realized, these bratty kids are the people my parents trusted me with for two weeks at a time. WTH.

  9. We have had two babysitters for Ezra that were not parents. One was “test-driven” by someone more anxious than I am about this topic and gave the sweet 16 year old girl a thumbs up. The other babysitter was a beloved teacher at his daycare.

    Every now and then T wonders aloud, “Should we find some other people to babysit Ezra and Iris rather than just your parents?” “No,” I firmly respond. While I covet and dream and think wistfully of date nights out with my husband, I don’t feel so hard up in part of my relationship with him that I want to branch out in terms of caretakers.

    The reasons you mentioned above are why we didn’t choose in-home daycare (lack of checks and balances) and why knowing we had to hire a nanny for Iris gave me knots in my tummy for months on end. The fear of having my now innocent children be victims and hurt at the hand of an adult makes me want to keep us all in a bubble of love; however unreasonable that sounds.

  10. As someone who worked with older adults for a long time, I was often shocked when I was reminded that MOST older adults are perfectly fine people without dementia.

    But I only saw the ones with dementia, and so in my brain that was how it went.

    (This way annoyed my grandmother, by the way.)

    Because you and Scott SEE children who have been hurt, you cannot see the thousands who are not.

    And helping your children know that most people in the world are good and can be trusted is important. You and Scot having time to be husband and wife is important.

    No one will do it exactly like you do. But that’s ok too. And you want your kids to learn that rules come in all shapes and sizes from different people.

    Predators are out there, but the world is not FULL of them. It are FULL of people like you. And Scott. And me.

    Ok, not like me. I am way wacky. I eat Valentine’s Day candy for breakfast.

    1. I hate to say it. I know it crosses subjects (&i know I can’t protect N from it), but my daughter has a 1 in 6 chance of being raped in her lifetime – please don’t tell me the world is not full of predators. We just choose not to see it because it makes it easier to get through the day and there are no easy things we can do to fix it.

    2. I actually really love this comment. We can only do so much. Our children have to deal with people when they grow up just like we do. And I don’t think its healthy to fear everyone. Thanks, Lori.

  11. Every time I go to the park and see the “In-home” day care providers of more than one child, I am reminded as to why I stay home with my kids. I once witnessed a daycare provider tell a baby…that if “he couldn’t keep himself safe, she would.” He was crawling, not yet walking all over the place. She was too busy talking to another day care provider, whom she met there every week, to do her job of making sure to keep him safe. Her solution to keeping the baby safe was to tie him in the wagon with rope, like a dog. Which by the way, tying up one’s dog is illegal in the city I live in. Like you, we have trouble leaving the kids with anyone else, and our marriage probably suffers for it. It is easier now that our oldest is 3 and can speak and tell us what is going on, but hard to leave the 18 month old with anyone when she can’t speak clearly yet.

  12. I feel completely the same way. I never left my girls with strangers – ever. The only people who every really babysat for them were their grandparents or their aunt. That’s it! My biggest fear is for them to be abused or kidnapped or both. It panics me sometimes. I won’t let them walk to school alone – even with friends. I won’t let them do much of anything alone. I don’t want to be that overprotective helicopter-mom, but I’d also do whatever it takes if it might prevent them being hurt.

  13. The good news is, that fear alleviates as your children age, and you know that they are 1) less likely to be victims, 2) old enough to speak out, and eventually 3) old enough to fight back.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Letting go is THE VERY HARDEST part of parenting.

  14. we logged onto our local high school’s website, found out who the honors teachers were and spoke to them about who they would trust with their own kids. Then we asked one of them to give the student our phone number and have them call us. We interviewed her, and then we set up a play date so to speak and had them come over for an afternoon play session with the excuse that I had some important billing things that needed doing without toddler help. I set up a nanny cam in the living room, the kids bedroom, the kitchen, and outside. I was watching her on my computer the entire time and not once did she do anything that was the least funny or made me uncomfortable. She’s been sitting for us every friday ever since. Best decision we ever made. Our kids love our sitter like an older sister who visits from college. We’ve even recommended her for business to a couple of our friends with small children and they all love her too. The thing is that teachers get to see these kids in a stressful setting (hello remember high school?) and know which ones are manipulative and strike them as off in some way, they get to see how they interact with their friends, as well as how they respect authority, how responsible they are, and how well they make tough decisions. By speaking to multiple teachers and getting the same name over and over again we knew that it was right.

  15. Did you read my mind before you posted this? My husband and I are the same way. We hate to leave our son and therefore rarely get out of the house on our own. We live 10 hours away from family and the only time we leave Jackson is when we are visiting them or they are visiting us. We have personal stories of abuse in in-home daycare ourselves, so that is definitely out of the question. Plus, recently an acquaintance’s 21 month old fell down the stairs at the babysitter’s house and was killed by the head injury. I feel horrible in saying that my mom, aunts, and my mother in law are the only people I trust to watch Jackson for any length of time. I have friends that practically beg me to keep Jackson and it takes all the strength in me to agree to it. Even for a couple of hours. In fact, we really should celebrate Valentine’s Day by going out to dinner but it’s just so hard leaving our son that I know all the two of us will be thinking about is how much we miss him and are worried about him the whole date. So what’s the point?

    I am so glad I’m not the only one!

  16. I hear you. It was much harder the first time around but I have a couple of sitters that I trust mainly because my son is so happy to be with them. I have never left him with anyone I felt uneasy with, which has been a sacrifice for us. But date night is necessary and children need a greater community they feel comfort with when not with their parents. Building that community has been a mission since my first son was born. I haven’t dropped the ball on it. They are my life.

  17. Yes. Just yes. My daughters have yet to stay with a baby sitter. They have spent time with grandparents, aunts, uncles – but all live too far away for regular evenings. So, we date night in. Once the kids are asleep, we retire to our own little cafe with candles and drinks and just talk. Or we head over to our movie theater.
    I know it won’t be this way forever.

  18. You’re so brave to post this. I don’t have any children, though I long for them, and I often wonder how I’ll deal with those situations. I see people in the store who have their kids tethered to the cart and I think to myself, “Why?” Then I think about the panic associated with looking up and not seeing your child nearby, and my heart nearly stops beating.

    We live in a scary scary world. And I applaud you for finding the balance that works for your family.

  19. I agree that this is a difficult decision that many parents face. It’s obvious from the comments that there are many different ways to look at it. You are lucky in that you have the option to stay home with your children on a regular/daily basis. Most families have to seek out childcare options and, unfortunately, cost is often a factor as well.

    I think that Lori made great points in that because of your education and career, you have seen some of the worst things that can happen and it creates a bias. That’s not a bad thing but you do have to keep it in perspective.

    Not all childcare providers (including family members who watch your kids) will follow the same rules and guidelines that you would set as a parent. It’s important to realize that a different perspective on rules or discipline is not synonymous with abuse or neglect. I think your job as a parent is to do the research and due diligence to make sure you are comfortable with the people you have chosen to care for your child. Do they share a similar philosophy about play, developmental needs, structure, etc? Are they willing to enforce principles or ideas that are important to you? Do they bring an opportunity for your child to learn something in a slightly different way or with a new perspective? When you can say yes to those questions, then you trust the process and keep an open dialogue with everyone involved.

  20. Thank you for this post Alex. As an adult who suffered years of sexual abuse by a former boyfriend of my mother, I know your fears all too well.

    Recently I took L out of in-home day care. There were other reasons for doing so but I began to realize that something was “off.” She would cry every day she was going there after pre-school. Once, her pre-school teacher called and asked if everything was ok with the sitter because when she showed up to pick up L, L freaked. Of course I feel like a horrible horrible parent for not picking up on things earlier. I’ve asked L if she was hit or touched, and she says no. But something was obviously wrong. After some time to think about it, I believe it was just the sitter’s discipline style. She yelled and come to find out, she cursed. A lot. Should I have picked up on this earlier? Absolutely. But with struggling to find affordable child care that worked with our schedule, this person worked. And she was a friend. So you are right…it’s usually someone you know.
    I beat myself up every day now for sending L there and hope that she will not be traumatized for life. She’s not happily going to grandma’s house, which she loves. No more crying in the morning when we tell her who is picking her up from pre-school. Now it’s the reverse, she cries when grandma isn’t picking her up!

    Again, thanks for this post. You’ve said what so many of us feel, but just don’t want to admit to ourselves.

  21. I am the same way. Though, we don’t fight about it. I’m constantly terrified that something will happen to our kids. We do actually use in-home daycare because of hearing about bad things happening in centers because there are too many kids. Several people I’m close to were molested as children, by family/friends of the family/neighbors. It’s terrifying to me to think that could happen to our kids, much less the fact that I watch Criminal Minds which lets my imagination get the best of me more often than not. I just have to pray and let it go, but it’s so difficult.

  22. I’ve never left my son with anyone but my sister-in-law, who is a loving and wonderful mother to my two nephews. No one else in my husband or my family have ever watched our son for an extended period of time. My husband and I are both very wary of using hotel babysitters when on vacation – it seems like our friends are way more flexible on things like that but I cannot bring myself to do it. I wouldn’t have a good time out because I’d be worried sick the whole night.

    No in home daycare for us, I’m way too paranoid for that. I recently went back to work and my son is in a licensed, secure pre-school that specifically caters to my husband/my industry and we love it (after many different facility tours). We got lucky in that they had a spot right away. It’s a hell of a lot more money than an in home situation and worth every penny.

    Disclaimer: yep, I was abused as a kid. So hell yes, I’m overly cautious and that plays a huge role in my “skeptic of everyone” train of thought. Not for one second do I feel bad about that. He’s my only baby.

  23. Oh and even when my parents watch our kids (which is half the time), I get frustrated because I expected them to use the same discipline with our kids as they did with me, and they are SOOO bad about spoiling them. Sigh…

  24. Touchy topic I think. I don’t have kids- so I have no idea what I’ll feel like. I think on part of it, I’ll tend to be overly cautious like you- because of what I’ve seen little kids come into the hospital with, but then on the other part of it, I don’t want to wrap my kids in a little bubble because I’m always afraid they’re going to get hurt.

    Like you said, it’ll be a fine line.

    I know that I won’t have a problem with good friends and family- but strange babysitters? I don’t know.

    I will have to say that I have been VERY offended by a friend (close friend- was in her wedding), when we were talking about her kids, and I was joking around and said we were going to have to leave her two kids with my husband just so he knows what it’s like (he seems to think being a mom is easier than it is), and she replied in essence that she wouldn’t leave her kids with MY husband because of the potential for abuse.

    I would’ve totally understood if she’d said, ‘he’s not used to taking care of little kids’, but the fact that she thinks I would’ve married a man that had the potential to abuse her kids- made me SOO upset. I’ve started to be in contact with her again little by little, but it’s taking a lot of time.

    So I’d say- just be careful of what you tell people when you don’t want them to watch your kids. Feelings can get hurt.

  25. I don’t have kids, but I’m only 20 so I practically AM still a kid.
    My mother was … horrible. Please don’t judge me for saying that, she really was.
    She went from partner to partner, the most long term one abused me in every way imaginable from the time I turned 4 until we left when I was 8, so being ‘looked after’ wasn’t really something I was used to.
    But she also never let me or my sisters do anything.
    I don’t know if she was actually worried about anything happening to us, or was just too bitter to allow us to have fun when she’d forgotten how to laugh years ago.
    So from my experience, I LOVE that you care. You care enough to put your feeling out there, and one day I hope your kids read this and appreciate what amazing parents they have.
    So long as you don’t let your fears stop them from being kids, you are brilliant parents.
    I wish more children had the likes of you and Scott in their lives.

  26. Have you read the book, “Protecting the Gift”? It’s such a good book, about this very topic, and helps to put these very real fears in perspective. So you can know what to look for, what to be (and not to be) afraid of, and know that we all have instincts that are right on, if we listen to them.

  27. As a child who went to sitters full time I was fully aware of the array of crappy but nonabusive sitters there were out there. When I had my first I was thriled when a relative told me about a wonderful sitter in her neighborhood who did daycare fulltime and tookt the kids the park and all sorts of great stuff. In the end I learned many things that will kep me from ever sending them back there and questioning leaving them in anyone’s care fulltime. I am actualy less nervous about leaving them with teens for date night than adults fulltime.

  28. I have also had a hard time with leaving my son. I found out the hard way that many people involved in childcare are not necessarily there for our children. Often times it is an attractive option because they have their own children to take care of and can bring them to work for free or reduced rate. Same goes for many home based child care centers. Many start them so they do not have to send their children to daycare. This is not to say they are all bad, in fact, many are good people who just love children. What I am trying to say is that you have to find the person who has the right motivation. I first sent my son to a home daycare and it was a nightmare. It was started because the woman has a son with special needs and had to stay home with him. I am lucky that my son only went 1 full day. I would pick him up and he was only given 2 ounces of milk all day. I know that this would not necessarily qualify as abuse but it sure did piss me off. The daily report would tell me that he was “very fussy” all day! Yeah, I bet he was fussy because he was starving!!!! To make it worse she would just tuck him away in a room alone to sleep as much as possible. There is a wide spectrum of potential problems, from physical abuse to simply not caring for them properly, and it all sucks. I hated it and cried every Friday. Luckily we have found a better place with great people (who feed my son). But you are so right. It never feels good to leave them with anyone else.

  29. I have a really hard time leaving T with anyone too. I only leave him with my parents and my best friend, I know how they parent and still manage to watch them like a hawk with out their knowledge. There are a lot of people on my no no list and even more people on my no way in heck list and it hurts feelings a lot because I don’t trust them.

    I am extremely cautious about daycares. I think that stems from the many years managing and working in one. I know what can happen and the sometimes fine line between discipline and right out nastiness some people have inside them. I try to believe in the system of background checks and good daycares, but I know some of the people I have fired that you would never guess were capable of somethings that I saw happen.

  30. I’m going to try not to write a book here in your comment section.

    My husband grew up with a physically/emotionally abusive mother. She was often ill and left him with much more abusive babysitters (some of whom she barely knew), abusive home run daycare workers, and abusive family members, sometimes for weeks at a time. I don’t want to give the impression that all babysitters he encountered were abusive, there were also babysitters who treated him wonderfully.

    I spent every day from age 4 to age 9 at my grandparents house, where my uncle sexually abused me. He was convicted three separate times of child molestation before I was born, but never got sentenced to jail time. They moved across the country because of the shame of those convictions, and my grandparents continued to deny and enable him….inviting families with children over to their house, never telling them that he was a sexual predator. The sexual abuse only ended when I was 9, because he died.

    I do advocacy work with abuse and rape survivors. I know the statistics. They are not inflated.

    We have moved around a lot in the last few years, which has made date nights very few and far between. Not living somewhere for long means not getting to know anyone well enough to even consider allowing them to watch our child.

    I’m sure we have been too close to the side of paranoid too. It is hard to put aside the hell that we both lived through, and the stories that I am told by survivors every day, and call up a babysitting service or the nice seeming lady next door (that I really don’t know very much about) and leave my child.

    As a survivor of abuse, someone who was not protected, I thank you for doing the hard thing, and keeping your kids safe.

  31. We feel the same way. We both work at a prison, so we know what people do to their children, and definitely other people’s children. Unless we are leaving them with family or friends we have known for years, we don’t go out. So, that keeps us from having alone time, apart from a few times a year. We are blessed in that our oldest is 16, so if we just HAVE to get out for a little bit we can. We just don’t take weekend trips unless they are with family. I lived in a very abusive situation for several years, and my children will not go through that ever again!! You rock as a Mom. I have never read anyone else who is so willing to talk about all those things that some of us try to pretty up, and you are definitely higher in my eyes for that willingness.

  32. Oh, I hear ya on this one. I have never really been in a situation where I’ve seen abuse directly, like in an ER, but I am scared to death that some random stranger will harm my kid when I’m not looking. Not that I’m paranoid or anything. 🙂 I do let her stay with friends, and she went to an MDO for a while. We’ve started a learning co-op with some friends for pre-school, and I was so grateful that this happened right when we needed it because the thought of sending my not-quite-3-year-old to a school where someone would need to help her wipe her butt, was just really out of my comfort zone.

    It’s also funny that you mentioned camps. I was just thinking that the other day, thinking to myself, “who the heck sends their pre-adolescents off for three or four weeks in the mountains to be watched by 18-year-olds?” That just sounds like a recipe for all kinds of trauma to happen. I went to those kind of camps though, and nothing bad happened.

  33. I have not seen the abuse you’ve seen but I also think you’ve seen proportionally more bad because you’re in the front lines – the ER. It’s really hard these days to not live in fear – but I push myself every day to be more brave. A book that I really enjoyed is Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. She also has a blog. I think it’s good to know both sides of an issue – which is why I read through all your comments including the abuse survivors. I know the world can be scary but I’m trying to live with as little fear as possible. It’s a conscious effort. Good luck.

  34. I’m expecting my first child, but I’ve already given the issue of childcare some thought. I spent a lot of time with babysitters in my younger years and there were some horrible ones. Only one truly abusive one, but the others did their own kind of damage, by their nastiness or disdain for us.

    I know that I will always be very careful about who I leave my kids with. Children are so easily damaged. Physically and emotionally. And even when they can communicate and tell you if something is up, after the fact is too late. I never want my kids to know that kind of fear. I never want them to feel afraid of their caregivers, so it’s my responsibility to make sure they won’t ever have reason to.

    If that means I become an overly cautious, paranoid mama, so be it.

  35. it’s a tough call, and there are no guarantees even for the most vigilant parents. i grew up with a mother who perceived danger absolutely everywhere, who was always on alert for the abductor or the molester, and i definitely grew up with a sense that the world is a very dangerous place. i think part of the reason i take a more laid back approach is because i don’t want to impart that same anxiety to my kids. i think there are plenty of ways to find babysitters you can feel comfortable with who will give you the freedom you need to be a grownup–friends, kids of friends, sitters who come recommended by people you know and trust. everybody has said it, you can’t protect your kids from everything. my kids had one grandparent out of 6 who i trusted implicitly to watch them, and she dropped dead of a heart attack less than 48 hours after she’d babysat o; could’ve happened while they were alone together. another time i came out from putting o to bed and found cleo crying hysterically because of a guilt trip my mom had laid on her for establishing boundaries–a 5-year-old! i was grateful to be able to back cleo up, and reassure her that she’s allowed to say no to physical contact no matter who wants it–but what am i to conclude, that i can’t leave her in a room with her grandmother? my husband sees the other side of this question in his work representing the wrongfully convicted. i vividly remember the child abuse hysteria of the late 80s and 90s, when daycares and preschools were being shut down all the time amid horrific allegations of abuse, much of which could never be documented beyond the word of the child–which was often recanted under subsequent questioning. the mantra of the day was that children don’t lie, they should always be believed–and as a result, it is still possible to ruin someone’s career, or even their life, with just the accusation of impropriety. maybe scott, like so many doctors, acknowledges this reality by making sure there’s always another adult in the examination room with him. i guess my point is just that there’s plenty to make yourself crazy over if that’s what you’re looking to do–god knows i never run out of material–but i truly believe that, for me, it’s important to do the footwork and then trust in the outcome. (and if all else fails, have my husband run a background check… trust but verify!)

  36. We had the perfect babysitting set-up before we moved a year and a half ago – my MIL. Now we mostly use a couple of trusted teen-agers for date nights (one is my friend’s daughter). But yeah, it’s still scary. Sometimes I REALLY want my MIL back.

  37. Oh, it is definitely hard. I wanted so badly to be a stay at home mom when I was “ready” to have children, but it didn’t work out that way. I am fortunate that abuse has never materialized. Though I am sure it is harder to tell when said child was an infant, now toddler and as yet not speaking in full sentences.

    My husband and I have different, but overlapping work schedules. This minimizes the amount of time our daughter is with the sitter, to usually 5 hours a day, 3 to 4 days a week. Our sitter is a family friend who is a stay at home mom. It was hard enough to trust someone we knew to watch our daughter…then, when our sitter needed to recover from surgery for a minimum of six weeks, we went through the horror of trying to find a day care that A) We could trust and B) Would take her for such a short period. Those day care workers probably thought I was a nut. I was a basket case, tears streaming when I dropped her off the first day. My fears? Appeared to be unfounded. She was always happy and smiley at drop off time, not clingy and scared, rarely fussy when my husband picked her up. And only one rash that I can remember (from the strawberries served at lunch, we think).

    Then, we pulled her out, back to the sitter…another emotional roller coaster, since we had come to appreciate the daily log of activities, knowing she was not just in front of a tv all day, but doing artwork and other activities, getting to play outside, playing with other children her own age…were we doing the right thing for her?

    Aww, crap. There I go again. Freaking snotty, weepy mess. There are no easy answers. I can only watch, wait, and pray.

  38. I feel the exact same way and we made a decision that we won’t let a man watch our children (not that a woman isn’t capable of that, but it’s less likely). In our church, there has to be two people with the kids at all times. In the bathroom, kids have to go with two adults. If there isn’t a second adult available from the class, they have to find one in the service. I like these kinds of rules.

  39. I’m probably in the minority, but I’ve only had to leave my son with a “stranger” once. And that was a friend who I worked with and trusted. And I still felt weird leaving him. My parents live in the town that we live in and are available at the drop of a hat. I know that he’s safe and I don’t have to worry.

    But when the day comes that I have to send him to school or trust him to a stranger? I’ll be a wreck then entire time.

  40. Hard for me, too. Hands-down-hard-for-me-every-day-to-leave-my-little-boys-and-go-to-work-or-go-on-a-rare-date-night.
    I’ve seen those icky stories, too….
    But practicing in a general peds practice helps me trust, too. Mothers and fathers who adore, love, admire, support, and celebrate their children walk through the door every day. They want to know how to do it right, how to do it *best*. I have to believe that there is a community that loves and cares for our children. Not like we do as parents, not that intimately, but with us…along side us, in the wings.
    I must say, traveling outside the US helps me know this. I’m not sure exactly why….but it helps me trust others. And helps me know that were I gone, the world would absorb my sweet little boys and help them be who they are and grow into themselves. Learn to be all that they are. And that they would love life fully….it can’t just be me and my husband who are solely responsible for this. Right?

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